Regicide and butterburs
From here in H.C. Andersen’s Garden you can see St Canute’s Church (the cathedral), St Canute’s Abbey and the Little Abbey Garden. All are named after Canute IV, also known as Canute the Holy, who was King of Denmark in 1080-86AD.
Canute IV was unpopular, in particular because of his levies and the mustering of a military campaign against England when his men needed to get back for the harvest. While fleeing from rebels, Canute and his followers sought shelter in what was then known as St Alban’s Church. According to the account written by a monk called Ælnoth, a spear flew through the window and slew the King as he prayed in front of the altar. His brothers, Oluf Hunger and Erik Ejegod, had him canonised and brought Benedictine monks from England to honour St. Canute. The reliquary containing Canute’s earthly remains can still be found in the crypt beneath St. Canute’s Church (Odense Cathedral).
The monks of St. Canute were scholarly, enterprising men who brought their knowledge about brick production and watermills with them. They built the abbey that adjoins the church and Munke Mølle (Mill of the Monks) at the riverside. During the Middle Ages, the abbey was extended with long buildings and gardens. The Little Abbey Garden was not planted until the 1920s. 125 medicinal plants are cultivated in the garden, many of which were introduced by the medieval monks. These include Petasites hybridus, or Butterbur, which was used to treat plague boils and wounds. It now grows all along the river in large colonies and you may recognise it from many of H.C. Andersen’s fairy-tales.
Denmark’s most common butterfly, the Small Tortoiseshell, on a newly-bloomed butterbur, with small pink flowers. Butterbur blooms in March-April, after which the large green leaves take over and the plant grows to heights of up to 2 m.
Until 1942, H.C. Andersen’s Garden was a members-only recreational space for the members of Funen Diocese Reading Society. Odense Municipality assumed ownership of the site and enlisted landscape architects C. Th. Sørensen and P. Wad to design the garden as it appears today. In the middle you will find the semi-circular pergola with flowerbeds and gravel paths. A beautiful mixture of an urban natural area and cultural gardens where you can enjoy the scent of flowers while seated on one of the many benches.